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Ep. 26 Summer Entertaining Tips & Local Maple Brined Chicken on the Grill

A good while back, when I was involved in the local foods movement we held a fundraiser called “The Dance of the Ripe Tomato” to introduce the newly formed Lake Superior Slow Food Convivium. What I remember most about this event is how we put it together on a shoestring. Even after all these years, there’s still talk about how much fun that event was and how locally grown and raised ingredients played the starring role.

Since then, I have been holding my own “tomato dance” at my house every year, I will still use the same planning method of collaborating, borrowing, and recycling to make it special as I did for the original gathering. So here are some tips for planning your Dance of the ripe whatever you are celebrating!

To create a festive atmosphere we use old quilts and vintage tablecloths to deck the tables. We collect all of our empty canning jars for beverages- pint-sized jars for beer and sodas and half pint-sized jars worked perfectly for wine glasses. I put out large bowls of crimson ripe tomatoes for centerpieces on the tables garnished with fresh flowers and greens from my yard. For beverages, we sample Mead (honey-based wine made right down the road) cider, and of course local beer.

Our menu reflects the local bounty and is often a collaboration of what we all have on hand. Our style is homespun and uncomplicated, but the fresh from the ground taste and knowing we are doing our part to support our local producers gives us pride in supporting our community. Remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great celebration, your friends and family will still love you no matter how elaborate your centerpiece is.

My Dance of the Ripe Tomatoes Menu Made with Local Foods

Local Dairy Cheese, Dried Cranberries, Roasted Hazelnuts

Wild Rice Salad with, carrots, beets and dressed with Honey Herb Vinaigrette

Wild and Gathered Greens with Blueberries and Goat Cheese

Sliced Tomatoes in Season, drizzled with Pesto

Maple Brined Free Range Chicken on the Grill

Grilled Local summer Squashes, peppers, and onions

Sesame Green Beans

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Maple Brined Chicken

Most local poultry lends itself well to brining. Just remember if you brine chicken, you can’t use the drippings for gravy, as they will be too salty. This recipe can be used for Turkey or Pork with delicious results.

1 large whole free-range chicken (3 to 5 pounds)

2 ½ gallons cold water (plus 1 quart to mix brine in)

2 cups kosher salt

1 cup white granulated sugar

1 cup real maple syrup

2 bay leaves

1 bunch fresh thyme or 4 tablespoons dry

1 head whole garlic, peeled and chopped

5 whole allspice berries- Optional

4 juniper berries, crushed- Optional


1. Place 2 gallons of cold water in the container you intend to brine with.

2. Place 1 quart of water in a small saucepan and add the rest of the ingredients and heat until dissolved. Pour into the cold water mixture and stir until well mixed. Add Chicken to brine mixture. Add ice if needed to chill brine. You want to make sure your brine mixture temperature is less than 41 degrees F.

3. Use a plate or heavy item to weigh it down if the chicken is floating. Refrigerate for 24 hours in a cooler packed with ice around the brining container or store in a refrigerator.

4. Take out of the brine and pat dry. Grill as directed below. Do not add salt to the chicken before cooking.

Grilled Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon


1 brined whole chicken

4 sprigs fresh rosemary, two cleaned from the stem and chopped

2 lemons, 1 sliced thin and one for juice

To Grill Chicken:

1. Cut chicken into 1/8th cuts and place rosemary sprigs in the pan. If using a larger chicken, cut in half across the breast. Place chicken over indirect medium heat and cook for 30 to 45 minutes covered. Turn and grill for another 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165F. The chicken will feel firm to the touch.

2. Just before serving squeeze lemon juice over cooked chicken and sprinkle with remaining fresh chopped rosemary. Garnish with sliced lemons

"Sun is shining. The weather is sweet. Make you wanna move your dancing feet."


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